By HAL McCOY
UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave after a stomach-stuffing Mexican meal of chicken enchiladas rancheros, rice, refried beans and the requisite number of margaritas.
—Something struck me as oh-so-true after the Cincinnati Reds acquired middle-of-the-rotation pitcher Tanner Roark from the Washington Nationals Wednesday. And a middle-of-the-rotation guy isn’t what Reds fan were looking for, but there is still time to do more, right?
On Wednesday afternoon, Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona appeared on MLB-TV and said, “Ninety-nine per cent of the rumors involving us are just not true.”
The Reds, of course, have been rumored to be in the chase for one of two Cleveland pitchers, Corey Kluber or Trevor Bauer. Reports all week out of the winter baseball meetings in Las Vegas said the Tribe was amicable to trading one of those two star starters.
Said Francona, “I believe both those pitchers will be with us when spring training starts in 2019.” That’s news Cleveland fans can love and appreciate — if it’s true and neither one ends up in a Los Angeles Dodgers uniform.
Most trades that are finally consummated are deals that have not been talked about at all. And the Reds acquiring Roark for minor league relief pitcher Ty Rainey fits the mold. There was not a peep about the Reds dealing for Roark.
Instead, the talking heads on the MLB network linked the Reds to these players:
PITCHERS: Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, Dallas Keuchel, J.A. Happ, Lance Lynn, Charlie Morton, Marcus Estrada and Alex Wood.
POSITION PLAYERS: A.J. Pollock, J.T. Realmuto, Ender Inciarte, Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp.
And what do the Reds get as the meetings wound down? Tanner Roark.
The most bizarre report was that the Reds and Los Angeles Dodgers talked about a possible trade that would send outfielder Yasiel Puig or Matt Kemp, along with pitcher Alex Wood to the Reds for a deal that would send pitcher Homer Bailey and others to the Dodgers.
Why would the pitch-rich Dodgers want Homer Bailey and his $28 million contract and his portfolio of the Reds losing 19 of his 20 starts last season?
It was reported that the snag might be that Bailey, as a 10-and-5 guy (ten years in the majors and five with his current team), has a built-in no-trade clause. He could nix a trade to LA.
Who is kidding whom here? Knowing Bailey, as soon as he heard the rumor he had his bags packed, praying that the deal is made.
Instead, the Reds get Tanner Roark, a 32-year-old right-hander who was 9-and-15 in 30 starts with a 4.34 earned run average last season for the Washington Nationals.
Roark is eligible for arbitration this off-season and projects to make $10 million in 2019. And he is eligible for free agency after the season.
He sounds alot like a clone of Matt Harvey, the guy who pitched the last half of last season with the Reds and is a free agent they could have signed.
Roark was a stellar starter in 2014 and 2016 when he posted 2.85 and 2.82 earned run average, but his proficiency has declined noticeably the last three seasons. Over that span his fastball has slipped from 95 miles an hour to just over 91.
Of more concern, Roark’s fly ball-to-ground ball ratio has increased the past three years, something that does not bode well in Great American Small Park.
And what attracted the Reds to Roark?
“He’s a solid middle-of-the rotation starter that just can come in and anchor our staff. It’s a good first step to improving our staff,” said general manager Nick Krall.
Middle-of-the rotation? Don’t the Reds have a staff of middle-rotationers? Anchor the staff? Shouldn’t your best pitcher anchor the staff. At least Krall said it was a good first step, indicating the Reds are looking for more and better.
Director of baseball operations Dick Williams said the club is still looking and added, “It depends on what’s out there and the market. We’re focusing on a guy that can get bulk innings.”
And that’s what Williams said about Roark.
“We heard great things about his make-up, but his track record stands out,” said Williams. “He has durability, the fact he has made 30-plus starts pretty much each of the last five years, except for one year. And he pitched 180-plus innings. And we liked his walk rate and strike-out rate, plus ground balls and he keeps the ball in the park.”
That remains to be seen if it all transfers from Nationals Park to GABP.
Roark became expendable when the Nationals signed free agent pitcher Patrick Corbin.
“I thought we had a pretty good staff in D.C.,” he said. “But they thought otherwise and I don’t know what their plans are. So I’m just grateful I was a National and there were good times over there.
“I know the Reds can hit the ball,” he added. “They have a tough lineup, I know that for sure. I’m excited to go in there and do my thing — just attack, attack, attack.”
Asked about Great American Ball Park’s well-deserved reputation as Home Run Heaven, Roark said, “I know what you want me to say. The ball flies. The ball flies everywhere nowadays. So it is not going to change the way I pitch. I’m still going to attack guys and pitch inside and get them uncomfortable. That’s my game.”